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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ecuador president confident lawmakers will reject defamation trial against him

IHT, 25 August 2007

QUITO, Ecuador: President Rafael Correa said Saturday he believes lawmakers will reject a Supreme Court request to lift his immunity as president to face defamation charges.

Ecuador's top court on Thursday asked lawmakers for permission to try the president on criminal defamation charges brought in June by former Economy Ministry adviser Quinto Pazmino, whom Correa had called a "swine" and "mentally unbalanced."

As president, Correa has immunity from prosecution but still can be tried with the approval of two-thirds of Congress. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison.

"I have faith that the (lawmakers) will act in accordance with the law, with justice, and will deny lifting the president's immunity," Correa said in his weekly radio address.

Correa's comments came after Pazmino, who was fired, leaked a video showing then-Economy Minister Ricardo Patino meeting with investors, discussing a plan to manipulate bond prices.

In February, Patino said Ecuador lacked funds to make a US$135 million (€99 million) scheduled payment on Global Bonds 2030 before a Feb. 15 deadline. But two days later the government said it would make the payment on time, raising suspicions that officials were trying to devaluate the debt by sparking sharp fluctuations in bond prices.

Patino has said he taped the meeting himself to "expose corruption" in the debt sector. He was replaced last month by Correa after Congress voted to censure him.

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